Pleasures of the Flesh
CofC students and grads put on a show worth getting Closer to
Are you on for a bit? Fancy a quickie, a blow job, a whorelike fuck, a wank with one hand typing sex messages on your computer and the other bringing yourself off? The four characters in Closer do, though like most Britons they spend a lot more time talking about it than actually doing it.
Set in London and written a decade ago, this is an exploration of 20- and 30-somethings who hurt each other in their quest for sexual pleasure and emotional gratification. Under the direction of recent College of Charleston grad Laura Lounge, this is an entertaining, well-produced version of Patrick Marber’s Tony-nominated play. Only some uneven acting and a slow first act prevent it from being perfect.
This isn’t the first time Closer has done the rounds. In recent years we’ve seen a movie adaptation starring Julia Roberts, Natalie Portman, Jude Law, and Clive Owen; a Theatre/Verv production at the Map Room; and an earlier incarnation of Lounge’s version at the College of Charleston. Lounge reunites her original student cast six months after their original run.
The four actors are beautiful. Junior Theatre major Charlene Boyd is the slim, confident Anna. Senior Theatre major Brian Smith plays the dashing Dr. Larry. Graduate Pelham Spong is the waiflike Alice, while Brian Wulfekotte, another grad, is “speccy geek” Dan. Their characters are constantly horny and strive to be honest with each other — usually with painful results.
Lauren Wilson’s subtle costumes help delineate the characters and define their locations (more formal for a gallery or museum, dressed down and dirty for a strip joint). Mary Ruth Baggot’s lighting design is simple and effective, although an occasional switch from pitch black to full lights draws attention away from the story. After Alice is hit by a car, Meredith Potter’s make-up is restrained and realistic.
The production’s marred by some of the choices the actors make. Perhaps they had more time to rehearse some scenes than others, or they’re just more confident in certain spots. Wulfekotte is the most patchy, because at times he’s capable of such assured acting. He has to be; if Closer has a central character, it’s Dan. At other times, his pauses are too long and he seems unsure of how to play his lines. Pelham Spong seems more in tune with the little-girl-lost aspects of Alice than her more emotional, needy side.
Charlene Boyd gives the strongest performance and makes the whole show believable. Brian Smith is accursed with a deep, sonorous voice that makes him sound like a soap opera doctor or a Broadway musical hunk, which is perfect for the lighter scenes but hampers him in others.
A clever use of set decorations and props plus an imaginative sound design helps to propel Closer towards its climax. Lounge accesses Marber’s themes — death, corruption of the flesh, communication in an era where we’re encouraged to speak plainly but don’t dare hurt anyone’s feelings — without laying them on too thick. Performed in-the-round, this is one production that’s worth getting closer to.
Closer • Piccolo Spoleto’s Stelle di Domani Series • (2 hours) • $12-$15 • May 29-31, June 1-4 and 6-9 at 7:30 p.m. • Theatre 220, Simons Center, 54 St. Philip St. • 554-6060